Gillibrand Trapped in Exile

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will be sworn in at 12:30 Tuesday, but she won’t be handed the keys to Hillary Clinton’s swanky Russell Senate Office Building suite for two whole months.

She’ll be relegated instead to temporary quarters in the less-desirable Dirksen building, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Even if she wins reelection in 2010, Gillibrand will lose Clinton’s digs, pop to the rear of the seniority list and probably find herself right back in Dirksen, “the stinkiest” of the three Senate office buildings, the aide added.

The 60-day delay may be a pain for Gillibrand, but it’s merciful for Clinton’s old staff. It gives them time to look for new jobs — and a handful are already being eyed by Gillibrand’s team for the sake of continuity and competence, according to people familiar with the situation.

Senior Clinton Adviser Signs Up

One of Clinton’s aides is already on board.

Karen Persichelli Keogh, Clinton’s former state director and a savvy New York operative, has emerged as a central adviser to newly appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, several Democrats tell Politico.

Keogh, 42, who left a gig at Clinton’s pet PAC earlier this year, is now running her own consulting firm and has been advising Gillibrand on local issues — and on how to ingratiate herself with Dem leaders throughout the state.

Clinton kept her distance from Gov. David Paterson during his deliberations, but she was reportedly thrilled by the selection of Gillibrand, an upstate centrist who worked on Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign.

The daughter of a former NYPD cop, Keough has deep connections with city Democrats and women’s groups and a solid relationship with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been cool to Gillibrand. Keough even worked on an Albany mayor’s race.  


Gillibrand is wasting no time and has already established a 2010 committee for her (re)election run, John Bresnahan reports.

Independently, we’ve also learned from a top New York Democrat with knowledge that Gillibrand is talking to Clinton’s former New York regional finance director, Dennis Cheng, about spearheading her own fundraising operation.

At the moment, Gillibrand and her possible primary foe, Long Island Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, are tied with about $250K cash on hand, although Gillibrand is considered to be a far more formidable fundraiser.

Return of the Contras

It may seem like nothing, but Nancy Pelosi is facing one of her biggest political threats of the 111th Congress so far — over the birth-control-in-the-stimulus scrap.

Drudge, along with CNN and others, is trumpeting a House GOP talking point — ridiculing Pelosi’s support of a Medicaid waiver in the stimulus package to reimburse states for contraceptives. Republicans think they have a winner, a classic gays-in-the-military, honeymoon-killing wedge issue.

It all started with a borderline blue comment by John Boehner last week linking “contraceptives” to “stimulus.” It’s a position that is popular with the Democratic base — and could arguably save the government money in the long run by preventing unwanted pregnancies and even abortions.

But it’s seriously dangerous to Democrats.

First, it reinforces the notion that Dems are ramming all sorts of parochial goodies (remember Mayor Goodman’s mob museum?) into the stimulus.

Second, it helps rally the GOP’s fractured base — uniting evangelicals and budget hawks.

Third — and most dangerous to Pelosi personally — it undercuts her carefully crafted image as a measured House leader, playing into the right-wing caricature of Pelosi as a Bay Area liberal who will abuse her power to push her far-left agenda.

On Sunday, Pelosi said she had “no apologies” for supporting the waiver.

OK. But how will she counterattack?

Media Matters’ Jamison Foser pushed back hard on the controversy, saying we were ginning up controversy. He also made the point that support for publicly funded contraception is high and growing:

“Thrush provides no polling to back up his suggestion that support for public funding for contraceptives would ‘undercut’ Pelosi’s ‘image as a measured centrist.’”

To the contrary, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association says such policies are extremely popular: “Eighty-six percent of voters and 85 percent of Catholic voters want the government to fund programs that provide contraception to women without health insurance.”

McCain Twitters

John McCain is now Twittering, and Spartanly.

“I’m traveling today with Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Joe Lieberman,” read Monday’s McCain Tweet.

“I’m meeting with the Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen at 3:00 pm,” read his post from Jan. 23.

Before we posted the item, he had 25 followers — by day’s end, he had 305.

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